Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Opinion & Analysis

The Big Picture: Value for Money

By Roy Clinton

In recent weeks the Government have tried to dazzle you with grand openings of impressive infrastructure projects and invited you to admire the architecture and the way they have proudly spent many tens of millions in your name.

The rush to completion of these projects will have raised the question in many minds if money is being unnecessarily wasted purely for electoral gain and pretty pictures.

It is of course politically impossible to argue against expenditure on new schools and sporting facilities and I have no wish to do so. However it is politically legitimate to ask whether those projects were delivered on a Value for Money basis for the taxpayer or not.

Value for Money is summarised by the UK National Audit Office as follows:
Economy: – spending less; Efficiency: – spending well; and Effectiveness: – spending wisely.

Underlying the basis for spending we must also consider the affordability and the financing of all these infrastructure projects. Some amateur commentators have recently suggested we should not concern ourselves with such “plumbing” issues and instead look at the Big Picture in a childlike wonder and gratitude, but I beg to differ.

This Government has made it impossible to assess whether you are getting Value for Money as a taxpayer as they will not disclose the ongoing costs of major projects such as the schools claiming it is commercially sensitive. Nothing appears in the Governments official books of account as the schools are owned by Government Companies.

We don’t know either where all the money is coming from for the schools and the elements of the sporting complexes in corporate vehicles. The Chief Minister claims to be spending over £100 million on the new schools. I can only guess that Government indirect borrowing is financing it.

This is a totally unacceptable state of affairs and completely undermines the reporting of our public finances in which he claims to have achieved a record surplus in 2018/19.

We are faced with an unnecessary dilemma as a community in not knowing who to believe as to the cost of the Big Picture …the GSLP/Liberal Government or the GSD Opposition? Our public finances should be crystal clear and not distorted by financial alchemy.

The Chamber of Commerce has expressed a wish that a definition of national debt be agreed upon following expert opinion.

In this I would be only too happy to oblige, for too long the GSLP/Liberals have hidden behind clever legal niceties as opposed to the substance of transactions. The unnecessary use of secretive Government Companies for public projects also has to stop.

We are now in the midst of a General Election campaign and the rhetoric and spin will only intensify.

I can only personally guarantee that a GSD Government, if elected on 17 October will have at its core the principles of fairness, transparency and accountability so you will always know how we are spending your money and whether we are spending it well and wisely.